The year was 2004 and somewhere in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, a troubled 13-year-old was saying a special prayer — a ritual repeated every night before going to sleep.
‘I used to look at the stars every night and pray “Please God, let me not grow too tall, so one day I can be a woman”.’
Today, the beautiful 26-year-old statuesque woman with feline eyes and forever legs feels she owes the cosmos a huge thank you.
‘I stopped growing at 5 ft 8 in,’ says Talulah-Eve. ‘A perfect height!’
Talulah-Eve, 26, from Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, said there wasn't any transgender people on television, when she was growing up. Pictured: Talulah-Eve and her boyfriend James
‘I’d always known I should be a woman, but I had no idea how that could ever happen,’ she recalls. ‘There were no transgender people on television then, you never heard about it at school. It was only when I was 13 and read about (transgender) contestant Nadia Almada, who won Big Brother in 2004, that I began to realise there might be another way to live. But only if I didn’t grow too tall.’
Not only did Talulah-Eve remain at a ‘feminine’ height, she’s now made history as the first trans lingerie model for Ann Summers. OK, so it’s not a brand to everyone’s taste. But look beyond the ad campaign, and stare instead at the glow of sheer triumph on Talulah-Eve’s face.
It was, she says, one of the happiest days of her life. One that the troubled youngster, staring at the stars, never dared wish for.
Her achievement should be explained in context, too. Talulah-Eve was hired for the campaign because she’s a beautiful model, not as a gimmick. The fact that she’s trans wasn’t part of the pitch — in fact, it wasn’t even mentioned.
The other day, Talulah-Eve walked past a branch of Ann Summers and almost burst into tears. There, on a huge poster in the window, she posed with six other women of assorted shapes and sizes in white knickers and bras.
‘It really seemed as if all my dreams were finally coming true,’ she beams. ‘When I was 17 and life was really difficult, I’d wander into our local Ann Summers during my breaks from working in a shop and restaurant. I became friends with the girls working there. I’d joke with them, “One day I’m going to be a lingerie model, I’ll be on display in your windows.” Now they’re all messaging me, “We remember you saying that!”’
Talulah-Eve (pictured) who is the child of a single mother, revealed she was forced into rugby and football at school
The child of a single mother, Talulah-Eve loved dolls and toy push-chairs. ‘My grandma could see it made me happy so at Christmas she’d buy me a baby doll,’ she says. Talulah-Eve’s mother was unhappy with this. ‘She wanted me to be a mini version of my Dad, even though he’d never lived with us.’
At school, her troubles really started. ‘I wanted to do dancing and gymnastics with the girls, but I’d be forced into rugby and football. Because I always came across as utterly feminine, the boys would tackle me hard; in the changing rooms they’d hide my clothes or put them in the shower. I felt so lonely, so misunderstood — I didn’t really even understand myself what was going on.’
Home was often worse. ‘We moved 17 times during my childhood and for most of the time my mum was in a very, very abusive relationship, so I used to dread going home. One night my mum’s boyfriend tried to suffocate her with some cushions. She was shouting for me and I came running in, but he just looked at me and told me to go. He was such a scary man I had to go back upstairs and listen to her scream.’
This was no safe environment for a teenager to explore any doubts over their sexuality or gender.
My hardest battle was saving our relationship
Of course, some argue that a couple of decades on things have become much easier, perhaps too easy, for transgender children. With role models such as Caitlyn Jenner — formerly retired Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner and father of Kendall and Kylie Jenner — to look up to, they claim some may be led to make huge decisions about their bodies too lightly.
Could she just have been a ‘different’ little boy? Talulah-Eve dismisses this entirely. ‘Of course, some guys just like girly things, it doesn’t mean they’re uncomfortable with their gender. But I always knew with me there was more to it than that — I was always fantasising about having female body parts.’
Talulah-Eve (pictured) said her voice is her biggest insecurity, revealing puberty-blocking drugs would have stopped it from breaking
Today, children like Talulah-Eve can be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs, which stop their bodies maturing, allowing them more time to decide if they really want to pursue gender reassignment surgery. Many worry these drugs are potentially dangerous and certainly not things to be given to children, often as young as 12.
Talulah-Eve takes the opposite view. She wishes puberty-blocking drugs had been readily available when she was an adolescent.
‘For one thing, they would have stopped my voice from breaking,’ she says. ‘Today my voice is my biggest insecurity. Guys are always coming up to me in the street and asking for my number, but when they hear me speak they get a shock and can be nasty.’
Indeed, when you see Talulah-Eve in the flesh, her feminine curves and soft lines of her face (aided by Botox and fillers) are at odds with the baritone of her voice. But it’s also true that within seconds you stop noticing it.
Her hair, shorn for her latest modelling campaign to display her astonishing bone structure, is now long and blonde; generally, she glows with confidence and poise.
Having left school at 16, it was at college, where Talulah-Eve was studying art and design, that she finally felt free to experiment with clothes and make-up.
One New Year’s Eve she and a group of friends decided to go out dressed in drag, for fun. While the others were playing dress up, Talulah felt she’d come home.
Talulah-Eve (pictured) said she wishes she could enjoy her beauty, but it's been tarnished by the experiences she had growing up
She started living as Talulah-Eve part-time — then full-time and, at 19, felt ready to start looking into gender reassignment surgery. A trip to the GP, and a referral to a specialist clinic in Nottingham followed. After two years of hormone injections and extensive psychiatric assessments, in December 2016 she was ready to undergo surgery.
Her mother, it has to be said, was still to a certain extent in denial. ‘She didn’t want to know too much,’ says Talulah-Eve. ‘While she didn’t try to talk me out of it, I know she found it very difficult to accept. In the end, she said “whatever makes you happy, do it”. But I went to hospital alone.’
As for the surgery itself, it was tough, she says. Ten days in hospital, three months of painful recovery. The mental recovery was only just beginning, however.
‘Afterwards when people started saying I was beautiful I couldn’t take it on board. I honestly thought whatever I did, I’d still look like what people used to call me; a man in a wig.’
‘The insecurities of my childhood will always be with me. I wish I could just enjoy my beauty, but it’s tarnished because of what I went through growing up.’
It wasn’t long before she started attracting the attention of men, which presented another set of problems. ‘I see myself as a woman, that’s how I intend to live my life. But what do I do when I meet a guy? Do I have to declare straight away, “Oh, by the way, I’m trans?” I don’t think I should be judged for that, so initially I don’t tell people, I let them get to know me first.’
Talulah-Eve met 29-year-old architect James (pictured) on a dating app and spent lockdown together at her Central London flat
But often that approach has backfired, such as at the beginning of the year when a man she’d begun to date learned about Talulah-Eve’s past from friends who’d Googled her. ‘He got very angry, there were a lot of threats, it was horrible,’ she winces at the memory.
Shortly afterwards, she met 29-year-old architect James on a dating app. This time, she took no chances: ‘We met and I told him everything straight out. He said, “You’re a beautiful person both inside and out, I wouldn’t judge you for this.” ’
Just a couple of weeks later, lockdown was imposed and James moved into Talulah’s Central London flat. ‘So we spent the whole of lockdown together. Luckily it worked!’
But there were still problems when James broke the news of his relationship to friends and family. ‘He was very worried about what they’d make of us. It’s that fear that makes it really difficult for a trans woman to find love, there’s such a stigma attached to these relationships.’
As a couple, it took us pretty much to breaking point. He was initially getting a lot of stick from friends but they finally got their heads around it.’
His family took even more convincing, but now Talulah-Eve’s just back from a holiday in Turkey with them. ‘They have their concerns, but they’re okay as long as I make James happy.
‘Saving our relationship has been the hardest of all my battles but it’s definitely been the most important.’
Talulah-Eve (pictured) revealed she wants to have at least two children to love unconditionally before the age of 30
One concern is whether the couple could ever have children, but Talulah-Eve has foreseen this, freezing her sperm before surgery so it could be used with a donor egg and the baby carried by a surrogate.
‘I really want children before I’m 30, at least two. I want to give them all the unconditional love I never had as a child,’ she says.
‘I know I would make an amazing mum.’
James, however, is more cautious. At the moment, the couple are talking about buying a house together, but Talulah-Eve has a date in the diary for the New Year when she wants to start looking into surrogacy options. Somehow, you can see her getting her way. She has always had to fight her own battles, after all, including with those who send her abuse online. She says: ‘The bullying at school helped me develop an armour, so now I don’t let it faze me.’
She laughs at the fact her bullies now follow her on Instagram and send her Facebook friend requests. ‘I don’t accept them!’ And she believes life’s gradually improving for trans people. ‘People are beginning to accept us,’ she says. ‘But they’re certainly not embracing us. There’s a long way to go.’
She’s delighted that Ann Summers featured her without even mentioning her background. ‘Some people might have exploited that as a selling point, so to me it was amazing to be presented as just another woman.’
Yet, along with many, Talulah-Eve is disappointed at the Government’s decision not to allow trans people to change their gender on their birth certificates without a medical diagnosis and proof they’ve lived for two years in their new gender. ‘We can change it on our passports so why not on our birth certificates?’ she asks. ‘If we can’t we’ll have a dark cloud lingering over us.’
Despite her struggles, today Talulah-Eve’s the happiest she’s ever been. After years of strife, she’s grown very close to her mother, who’s proud of her achievements. She’s working full-time as a model, and dabbling with a new venture as a DJ.
Most importantly, with James she’s realised a lifelong dream: she’s a 5 ft 8 in beautiful woman, she’s happy and she’s in love. Yes, those stars did her proud.